I was a 10-year-old kid in 1985. The Ducks were playing at Nebraska for the first game in a two-year agreement to play at Nebraska. That is right, the Big Red Machine in its heyday under legendary coach Tom Osborne. You see, back then the Ducks did not have the pull to get home-and-home series or neutral-site games against college football’s elite. The financially-strapped Oregon program had to play “payout games.”
In the ’80s, on top of playing the two games in Lincoln, Oregon also played two games in Columbus against Ohio State with, once again, no return trip to Autzen. The Ducks could not even get a 2-for-1 like they currently have set up to their advantage with Boise State. The Ducks were that low on the college football totem pole.
I had hopes and dreams as that 10-year-old that somehow our hometown legend of a quarterback named Chris Miller could lead the Ducks to the massive upset. The Ducks would get mentioned on ESPN for sure if they did. That was always super exciting back then.
But, as my older brother and I listened to the game over the radio, our hopes were quickly smashed as the Cornhuskers jumped out to a quick lead, led 42-0 at halftime, and ultimately won 63-0. By the second half, having grown restless of the game, we had gone outside to toss the old football around as we could no longer stand to listen.
I had not thought of that game much over the years. When the memory did come up, it was usually in a moment of blissful reflection. Like when a middle-aged couple who has “made it” in life looks back to their struggling younger selves, thinking about how tough it was when they started out, but gazing upon a picture of their grown children, they smile, thinking about how that struggle was worth it.
As the struggle has been worth it over the years as an Oregon fan.
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Well, for three hours on Saturday, the Oregon Ducks made their long struggle to brand-name relevance feel very not worth it. Oregon’s blowout loss to Georgia took me back to 1985. Don’t get me wrong, it felt good to be 10 years old again for a few hours, but in my mind, the blowout loss to Georgia on Saturday is the worst blowout the Ducks have experienced since that 1985 Nebraska game.
Of course, while the Ducks did get paid handsomely to play in Atlanta, this was not a “payout game,” but based on the results on the field it could easily have been mistaken for one. When the likes of Portland State come to Autzen for a “payout game” and get destroyed, I always wonder if that team learned anything about themselves. Or maybe it’s just, “We are here to get destroyed for the money, and we’ll resume our regular schedule against our level of competition next week.”
Is this what the Ducks are thinking?
In a game where nothing went well, it does make it hard to take stock of where this Oregon team is in all aspects of the game. Usually, the coaching staff can comment after a game on specific areas that need improvement. But, after this loss, there is no need to improve “here” and “there” for the Ducks. There is a need to improve everywhere.
It might be best to start anew and believe that the 2022 season begins next week against Eastern Washington. Against the Eagles, the Ducks can work out their “first game” kinks in order be get prepared to take on a very tough BYU team the following week.
My article last week made the argument that the Ducks would not get blown out. Well, I could not have been more wrong. Crow is what I ate on Saturday. There is no shame in losing to the Georgia Bulldogs. But, unfortunately, Oregon did not compete and left Atlanta with more questions than answers.
My older brother was at my house watching the game on Saturday. By the second half, having grown restless of the game, we had gone outside to toss the old football around as we could no longer stand to watch. Oh Ducks, how you made history repeat itself on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was the wrong side of history.
Top photo credit: Tom Corno
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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